The following passages, for obvious reasons, grabbed my attention in the opening pages of Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel The Magic Mountain, about a young Hamburg man exiled to an Alpine sanatorium before World War I:
So he grew up; in wretched weather, in the teeth of the wind and mist, grew up, so to say, in a yellow mackintosh, and, generally speaking, he throve. A little anaemic he had always been, so Dr. Heidekind said, and had him take a good glass of porter after third breakfast every day, when he came home from school. This, as everyone knows, is a hearty drink — Dr. Heidekind considered it a blood-maker — and certainly Hans Castorp found it most soothing on his spirits and encouraging to a propensity of his, which his Uncle Tienappel called ‘dozing’: namely, sitting staring into space, with his jaw dropped and his thoughts fixed on nothing at all.
The subdued chords of a hymn floated up; after a pause came a march. Hans Castorp loved music from his heart; it worked upon him in much the same way as did his breakfast porter, with deeply soothing, narcotic effect, tempting him to doze.
‘God help me, milk I never could abide, and least of all now! Is there perhaps some porter?’ He applied himself to the dwarf and put his question with the gentlest courtesy, but alas there was none. She promised to bring Kulmbacher beer, and did so. It was thick, dark, and foaming brownly; it made a capital substitute for the porter. Hans Castorp drank it thirstily from a half-litre glass… [The] breakfast beer, as a rule only mildly obfuscating to the young man’s sense… this time completely stupefied and befuddled him. He felt as though he had received a blow on the head.
I’m only a hundred pages in but I’m hoping the breakfast porter turns out to be the key to it all and was played by Dirk Bogarde in a 1970s film version.